Random thoughts on spending a lot of time in SE Asia…
We arrived home to Vermont just in time for a mind-blowing 16-inch snowstorm. The ski areas around here (Stratton, Bromley and Magic Mountain) are running full speed and it appears the economy in Southern Vermont is buzzing. On the other side of the world, we hope all our friends are safe and sound with the news of the volcanic eruption of Mt. Kelud in Java, Indonesia.
Other than this blog, I wrote very little. The school visits kept me plenty busy, and when I wasn’t visiting schools we were traveling on planes, buses and taxis.
Singapore and Indonesia are wicked hot. They sit almost exactly on the equator; meaning everyday it is hot, like 88 degrees F. hot. No seasons. And very humid. About 80% to 100% humidity most days. I sweated buckets.
Indonesians are lovely people. Helpful, kind and friendly. All you need to do when meeting an Indonesian stranger with a grumpy face coming down the street is crack a grin. Their face lights up like they’ve just won the lottery.
Indonesians are industrious. We heard many times: if Indonesians can sell something, they will. Scooter fuel (scooters are everywhere and I once saw 5 people on one scooter: dad, toddler, and mom holding two babies), fresh picked fruit (coconuts, jackfruit, lychee fruit), crackers, chickens, water bottles.
The Singapore metro is the cleanest and most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The folks in charge of the subways in NYC and Paris and London could learn a thing or two. It’s a delight to travel by subway and millions of travelers do everyday. Throwing a cigarette butt in the MRT will get you a $10,000 fine and gum chewing is banned. There’s no funky smells and artwork adorns the walls.
Singapore is not Indonesia. Despite its cosmopolitan and commercial vibe, Singapore preserves its large trees. It’s a city within a forest. Wherever I traveled in Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Bali and Borneo), I observed little or no infrastructure to collect trash or recycle plastic. Plastic gets burned or worse, dumped into a nearby gutter or canal or river which eventually leads to the sea. As a recycling advocate forever harping on about plastic waste it was eye-opening to spend a month in third-world countries. When you are poor and trying to make it to your next meal, disposing properly of your trash is not high priority. A huge challenge, for sure. The poor old ocean gets the brunt of the waste. Please check out this wonderful and touching film trailer about Midway Island and the Laysan albatross.
One powerful memory of my trip to SE Asia will be the smart and funny and savvy students I met in every school I visited. These culturally diverse, globe-trotting kids helped make my assemblies and workshops a total blast! I’m so grateful to the wonderful schools who invited us from so far away: Stamford American International School, International School Riau at Rumbai, International School Riau at Duri, Surabaya International School and Pasir Ridge International School. Many, many thanks!